Dr. John Morton is a bariatric surgeon from Stanford University who published a study (Archives of Surgery, October 2011) indicating that when one member of a family has weight loss surgery, there is a weight loss effect that can be measured in other members of the family. Other healthy habits such as regular exercise were also noted. This effect was found in both adults and children in the family.
On average, the non patient adult members of the family lost 8 lbs over the year following surgery. Although this may not compare with the dramatic weight loss seen after bariatric surgery, it is comparable to what would be expected with a medically supervised weight loss program over the same time frame. There was an effect on children in the family as well, but not quite as dramatic.
Dr. Morton was able to show that the effect was due to observing the family member who had bariatric surgery eating small portions and eating more slowly. Interestingly, the effect was augmented by family members accompanying the bariatric surgery patient to their pre-op and post-op visits to the clinic.
Dr. Morton described the patients as being ‘ambassadors” of good health for their family members. He described obesity as a “family disease and bariatric surgery provides a vehicle for healthy change for patient and family alike”.
Other studies have shown that bariatric surgery patients achieve enhanced results when they have spousal and family support on their weight loss journey.
The lesson to be learned from this study is that surgical weight loss should be approached as a family project and that all family members can benefit.